Yulia Lerner. PhD.
Senior Researcher, Tel Aviv University
Neurology Department & Tel Aviv Center For Brain Functions, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center
Examples of Research Projects
The architecture of neural circuits involving in processing of musicWhat happens in our brains when we listen to music? On the one hand, language and music hold many similarities: both are universally experienced percepts, require structural arrangements, and consist of chronological sequences of separate syntactic elements, such as words or tones. On the other hand, the designative meanings in music are often less precise and specific than those arising in verbal communication. Thus, processing of music might be very different from processing of verbal auditory information, such as a story.
Using fMRI, we have been studying performing pianists. We manipulate the way subjects interpret the music content by rendering the temporal structure of Brahms Piano Concerto No1. The aim is to find similarities and differences in processing of verbal (e.g. story) and music auditory information. These findings may support evidence that the time scale of processing is a functional property that provides a general organizing principle for the human cortex.
Processing of visual and auditory information in schizophrenia patients
Struggling to organize and relate past and present information may reproduce the symptom of disorganized thoughts known in schizophrenia. In addition, disturbed connections between frontal and posterior brain regions constitute the core neuropathology in schizophrenia. Stimuli with well defined temporal organization might assist us to find the critical points in the breakdown of information processing in schizophrenia patients.
We focus on first-episode schizophrenia patients, using temporally extended complex stimuli (a story and a movie), and examine different levels of processing within a stimulation context. By comparing the responses of schizophrenia patient’s brain regions to a normative response profile extracted from a database of matched healthy subjects, we may be able to detect patterns of brain activity that deviate from neuro-typicality. We further hope that such deviations, if consistent within a clinical group, may be used as a functional marker for the disease and may help clinicians to devise better methods for early diagnostics and process guided therapeutic interventions.
Brain function and information processing in siblings of schizophrenia patients
Studies of cognition in biological relatives of schizophrenia patients indicate that non-psychotic relatives are also impaired, albeit to a milder degree than patients, on a wide array of cognitive tasks. However, brain mechanism that characterizes such tendency is not known.
We attempt to determine the biological markers of predisposition to schizophrenia following findings of deficient cognitions and abnormal brain functioning in unaffected siblings. More so, since siblings are not symptomatic, we expect reveal critical and non-critical difference between the healthy controls and schizophrenia patients.